In this 2008 movie (I saw it with the “grands”), “Horton the Elephant struggles to protect a microscopic community from his neighbors who refuse to believe it exists,” according to the IMDb synopsis. With the 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on sugar consumption, the story becomes allegorical. With WHO’s “recent discovery” that we are eating too much sugar, I could now relate it to our gut biota, a “microscopic community”.
“Recent discovery” is in quotes because I am reminded of an excerpt from Weston A. Price’s magnum opus, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1939) that I read in Catherine Shanahan’s great book, Deep Nutrition:
“It is of interest that the diets of the primitive groups […] have all provided a nutrition containing at least four times these minimum [mineral] requirements; whereas the displacing nutrition of commerce, consisting largely of white-flour products, sugar, polished rice, jams [nutritionally equivalent to fruit juice], canned goods and vegetable fats [oils] have invariably failed to provided even the minimum requirements.” (brackets by Shanahan; bold by me).
The draft WHO guideline has been widely disseminated in the mass media, and regurgitated by bloviating bloggers everywhere; but, just in case you missed it, I will provide this extract from the abstract in Diabetes in Control:
“WHO's current recommendation, from 2002, is that sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day. The new draft guideline also proposes that sugars should be less than 10% of total energy intake per day. It further suggests that a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits. Five per cent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult.
The suggested limits on intake of sugars in the draft guideline apply to all monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) that are added to food by the manufacturer, the cook or the consumer, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.
Much of the sugars consumed today are "hidden" in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar” (again, bold added by me).
I could go on and on about the dangers of “hidden” sugar, and of flour, sugar and vegetable oils. Suffice it to say: Weston A. Price was prescient! And so many others, whose message is being drowned out today by the tsunami of modern “sort-of-science” that Gary Taubes describes and I report on in Retrospectives #192 and #193.
I am reminded of the prologue to Taubes’s seminal tome, Good Calories-Bad Calories (The Diet Delusion in the UK). In it, he relates how in 1863 William Banting, a portly retired London undertaker, asked his doctor how to lose weight. The doctor had just returned from a lecture in Paris by Claude Bernard, the famed French physiologist. So he told Banting to “scrupulously avoid eating any…food that might contain either sugar or starch.” He “avoided altogether “bread, milk, beer, sweets and potatoes” and dropped 50 pounds in 18 months. And as I relate to my readers in Retrospective #1, the 18-page pamphlet Banting produced and sold became an instant best seller.
The 2020 “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” are now in preparation. Will the USDA/HHS be as sensitive as Horton was to the “microscopic community” that exists, and lives, within each of us? The trillions of human cells, and the trillions more of biota living in our gut, that depend on what we eat for our and their good health and the health of future generations who will populate the earth with the epigenetic inheritance we bequeath them? As Dr. Shanahan points out, we have “intelligent genes” that learn how to express themselves, or not…
It’s up to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, but if a Mail Online story is a harbinger, I fear it will not. Nottingham University’s Ian Macdonald, chair of the government panel tasked with examining the health impact of sugar consumption, is a paid consultant to both Mars and Coca Cola, according to the story. “We would take note of it [the WHO guidelines], but we would not act on it,” MacDonald said. He added, “The Government would take the recommendations of his own panel, the Carbohydrate Working Group of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, rather than those of the WHO.” So, if Horton is not looking out for the WHOs, who is?